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The Life of Christ

Resting in Faith

 

Volume 19

 

This volume is based on:-

Matthew 8:23-34; 9:18-26; Mark 4:35-41; 5:1-43; Luke 8:22-56.

It is recommended that you read these verses before you read the book.

 

You may freely copy this book as you desire.

The language of the Scripture quotes has been modernised for easier understanding.


 

The ‘rest’ of faith

Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For to us [of the New Testament] was the gospel preached, as well as to them [of the Old Testament]: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

For we which have believed do enter into rest, as He said, "As I have sworn in My wrath, if they shall enter into My rest [they can cease from their own attempts at righteousness]": although the works [of God] were finished from the foundation of the world.
For He spoke in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, "And God did rest the seventh day from all His works."

Hebrews 4:1-4.

 

"Peace, Be Still"

It had been an eventful day in the life of Jesus.

Beside the Sea of Galilee He had spoken His first parables, by familiar illustrations again explaining to the people the nature of His kingdom and the manner in which it was to be established. He had likened His own work to that of the sower; the development of His kingdom to the growth of the mustard seed and the effect of leaven in the measure of meal.

The great final separation of the righteous and the wicked He had pictured in the parables of the wheat and tares and the fishing net. The exceeding preciousness of the truths He taught had been illustrated by the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price, while in the parable of the householder He taught His disciples how they were to labour as His representatives.

All day He had been teaching and healing; and as evening came on the crowds still pressed upon Him. Day after day He had ministered to them, scarcely pausing for food or rest. The malicious criticism and misrepresentation with which the Pharisees constantly pursued Him made His labours much more severe and harassing; and now the close of the day found Him so utterly wearied that He determined to seek retirement in some solitary place across the lake.

Across the lake

The eastern shore of Lake Gennesaret (Galilee) was not uninhabited, for there were towns here and there beside the lake; yet it was a desolate region when compared with the western side. It contained a population more heathen than Jewish, and had little communication with the rest of Galilee. Thus it offered Jesus the seclusion He sought, and He now bade His disciples accompany Him there.

After He had dismissed the multitude, they took Him, even "as He was," into the boat, and hastily set off. But they were not to depart alone.  There were other fishing boats lying near the shore, and these were quickly crowded with people who followed Jesus, eager still to see and hear Him.

Jesus rested "in faith"

The Saviour was at last relieved from the pressure of the multitude, and, overcome with weariness and hunger, He lay down in the stern of the boat, and soon fell asleep. The evening had been calm and pleasant, and quiet rested upon the lake; but suddenly darkness overspread the sky, the wind swept wildly down the mountain gorges along the eastern shore, and a fierce tempest burst upon the lake.

An unnatural storm

The sun had set, and the blackness of night settled down upon the stormy sea. The waves, lashed into fury by the howling winds, dashed fiercely over the disciples' boat, and threatened to engulf it. Those hardy fishermen had spent their lives upon the lake, and had guided their craft safely through many a storm; but now their strength and skill availed nothing. They were helpless in the grasp of this tempest, and hope failed them as they saw that their boat was filling.

Absorbed in their efforts to save themselves, they had forgotten that Jesus was on board. Now, seeing their labour vain and only death before them, they remembered at whose command they had set out to cross the sea. In Jesus was their only hope. In their helplessness and despair they cried, "Master, Master!"

But the dense darkness hid Him from their sight. Their voices were drowned by the roaring of the tempest, and there was no reply. Doubt and fear assailed them. Had Jesus forsaken them? Was He who had conquered disease and demons, and even death, powerless to help His disciples now? Was He unmindful of them in their distress?

Again they call, but there is no answer except the shrieking of the angry blast. Already their boat is sinking. A moment, and apparently they will be swallowed up by the hungry waters.

Fast asleep

Suddenly a flash of lightning pierces the darkness, and they see Jesus lying asleep, undisturbed by the tumult. In amazement and despair they exclaim, "Master, care You not that we perish?" How can He rest so peacefully, while they are in danger and battling with death?

Their cry arouses Jesus. As the lightning's glare reveals Him, they see the peace of heaven in His face; they read in His glance self-forgetful, tender love, and, their hearts turning to Him, cry, "Lord, save us: we perish."

Never did a soul utter that cry unheeded. As the disciples grasp their oars to make a last effort, Jesus rises. He stands in the midst of His disciples, while the tempest rages, the waves break over them, and the lightning illuminates His face. He lifts His hand, so often employed in deeds of mercy, and says to the angry sea, "Peace, be still."

The storm ceases. The billows sink to rest.

The clouds roll away, and the stars shine forth.

The boat rests upon a quiet sea.

The ‘rest’ of faith

Then turning to His disciples, Jesus asks sorrowfully, "Why are you fearful? Have you not yet faith?" Mark 4:40, R.V.

A hush fell upon the disciples. Even Peter did not attempt to express the awe that filled his heart. The boats that had set out to accompany Jesus had been in the same peril with that of the disciples. Terror and despair had seized their occupants; but the command of Jesus brought quiet to the scene of tumult. The fury of the storm had driven the boats into close proximity, and all on board beheld the miracle.

In the calm that followed, fear was forgotten.

A Christian man

The people whispered among themselves, "What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

When Jesus was awakened to meet the storm, He was in perfect peace. There was no trace of fear in word or look, for no fear was in His heart.

But He rested not in the possession of almighty power.

It was not as the "Master of earth and sea and sky" that He reposed in quiet. That power He had laid down, and He says, "I can of My own self do nothing." John 5:30. He trusted in the Father's might. It was in faith - faith in God's love and care and protection - that Jesus rested, and the power of that word which stilled the storm was the power of God.

So may all Christians

As Jesus rested by faith in the Father's care, so we are to rest in the care of our Saviour. If the disciples had trusted in Him, they would have been kept in peace. Their fear in the time of danger revealed their unbelief. In their efforts to save themselves, they forgot Jesus; and it was only when, in despair of self-dependence, they turned to Him that He could give them help.

Self help

How often the disciples' experience is ours!

When the tempests of temptation gather, and the fierce lightnings flash, and the waves sweep over us, we battle with the storm alone, forgetting that there is One who can help us. We trust to our own strength till our hope is lost, and we are ready to perish.

Then we remember Jesus, and if we call upon Him to save us, we shall not cry in vain. Though He sorrowfully reproves our unbelief and self-confidence, He never fails to give us the help we need. Whether on the land or on the sea, if we have the Saviour in our hearts, there is no need of fear. Living faith in the Redeemer will smooth the sea of life, and will deliver us from danger in the way that He knows to be best.

Only sinners need fear

There is another spiritual lesson in this miracle of the stilling of the tempest. Every one's experience testifies to the truth of the words of Scripture, "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest. ... There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked." Isaiah 57:20, 21.

Sin has destroyed our peace. While self is unsubdued, we can find no rest. The masterful passions of the heart no human power can control. We are as helpless here as were the disciples to quiet the raging storm.

But He who spoke peace to the billows of Galilee has spoken the word of peace for every soul. However fierce the tempest, those who turn to Jesus with the cry, "Lord, save us," will find deliverance. His grace, that reconciles the soul to God, quiets the strife of human passion, and in His love our hearts may be at rest.

"He makes the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so He brings them to their desired haven." Psalm 107:29, 30.

"Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1.

"The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever." Isaiah 32:17.

At the other side

In the early morning the Saviour and His companions came to shore, and the light of the rising sun touched sea and land as with the benediction of peace. But no sooner had they stepped upon the beach than their eyes were greeted by a sight more terrible than the fury of the tempest, and needing the same faith.

From some hiding place among the tombs, two madmen rushed upon them as if to tear them in pieces. Hanging about these men were parts of chains which they had broken in escaping from confinement. Their flesh was torn and bleeding where they had cut themselves with sharp stones. Their eyes glared out from their long and matted hair, the very likeness of humanity seemed to have been blotted out by the demons that possessed them, and they looked more like wild beasts than like men.

The disciples and their companions fled in terror; but presently they noticed that Jesus was not with them, and they turned to look for Him. He was standing where they had left Him.

He ‘rested’ in faith

He who had stilled the tempest, who had before met Satan and conquered him, did not flee before these demons. When the men, gnashing their teeth, and foaming at the mouth, approached Him, Jesus raised that hand which had beckoned the waves to rest, and the men could come no nearer. They stood raging but helpless before Him.

With authority He bade the unclean spirits come out of them. His words penetrated the darkened minds of the unfortunate men. They realised dimly that One was near who could save them from the tormenting demons. They fell at the Saviour's feet to worship Him; but when their lips were opened to entreat His mercy, the demons spoke through them, crying vehemently, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God most high? I beseech You, torment me not."

They asked to enter the pigs

Jesus asked, "What is your name?" And the answer was, "My name is Legion: for we are many." Using the afflicted men as mediums of communication, they begged Jesus not to send them out of the country. Upon a mountainside not far distant a great herd of swine was feeding. The demons asked to be allowed to enter into these, and Jesus allowed them.

The effect of demons

Immediately a panic seized the herd. They rushed madly down the cliff, and, unable to check themselves upon the shore, plunged into the lake, and perished. It was Satan’s plan to hinder Jesus’ work this way.

Meanwhile a marvellous change had come over the demoniacs. Light had shone into their minds. Their eyes beamed with intelligence. Their faces, so long deformed into the image of Satan, became suddenly mild, the bloodstained hands were quiet, and with glad voices the men praised God for their deliverance.

Not all appreciated this

From the cliff the keepers of the swine had seen all that had occurred, and they hurried away to publish the news to their employers and to all the people. In fear and amazement the whole population flocked to meet Jesus.

The two demoniacs had been the terror of the country. No one had been safe to pass the place where they were; for they would rush upon every traveller with the fury of demons. Now these men were clothed and in their right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words, and glorifying the name of Him who had made them whole.

But the people who beheld this wonderful scene did not rejoice. The loss of the pigs seemed to them of greater moment than the deliverance of these captives of Satan.

In their best interest

It was in mercy to the owners of the swine that this loss had been permitted to come upon them.

They were absorbed in earthly things, and cared not for the great interests of spiritual life. Jesus desired to break the spell of selfish indifference, that they might accept His grace.

But regret and indignation for their earthly loss blinded their eyes to the Saviour's mercy.

The manifestation of supernatural power aroused the superstitions of the people, and excited their fears. Further calamities might follow from having this Stranger among them. They were afraid of financial ruin, and determined to be freed from His presence.

Those who had crossed the lake with Jesus told of all that had happened on the preceding night, of their peril in the tempest, and how the wind and the sea had been stilled.

But their words were without effect. In terror the people thronged about Jesus, beseeching Him to depart from them, and He complied, taking ship at once for the opposite shore.

Grace unrecognised

The people of Gergesa had before them the living evidence of Christ's power and mercy. They saw the men who had been restored to reason;
but they were so fearful of endangering their earthly interests that He who had vanquished the prince of darkness before their eyes was treated as an intruder, and the Gift of heaven was turned from their doors.

This is still going on

We have not the opportunity of turning from the person of Christ as had the Gergesenes; but still there are today many who refuse to obey His word, because obedience would involve the sacrifice of some worldly interest. Lest His presence shall cause them financial loss, many reject His grace, and drive His Spirit from them.

But far different was the feeling of the restored demoniacs. They desired the company of their deliverer. In His presence they felt secure from the demons that had tormented their lives and wasted their manhood. As Jesus was about to enter the boat, they kept close to His side, knelt at His feet, and begged Him to keep them near Him, where they might ever listen to His words.

But Jesus bade them go home and tell what great things the Lord had done for them.

His will – not ours

Here was a work for them to do, - to go to a heathen home, and tell of the blessing they had received from Jesus. It was hard for them to be separated from the Saviour. Great difficulties were sure to beset them in association with their heathen countrymen. And their long isolation from society seemed to have disqualified them for the work He had indicated.

But as soon as Jesus pointed out their duty they were ready to obey. Not only did they tell their own households and neighbours about Jesus, but they went throughout Decapolis (the ten cities of the plains), everywhere declaring His power to save, and describing how He had freed them from the demons.

In doing this work they could receive a greater blessing than if, merely for benefit to themselves, they had remained in His presence. It is in working to spread the good news of salvation that we are brought near to the Saviour.

Born-again Christians

The two restored demoniacs were the first missionaries whom Christ sent to preach the gospel in the region of Decapolis. For a few moments only these men had been privileged to hear the teachings of Christ. Not one sermon from His lips had ever fallen upon their ears. They could not instruct the people as the disciples who had been daily with Christ were able to do.

But they bore in their own persons the evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. They could tell what they knew; what they themselves had seen, and heard, and felt of the power of Christ. This is what everyone can do whose heart has been touched by the grace of God. John, the beloved disciple, wrote: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;... that which we have seen and heard declare we to you." 1 John 1:1-3.

As witnesses for Christ, we are to tell what we know, what we ourselves have seen and heard and felt. If we have been following Jesus step by step, we shall have something right to the point to tell concerning the way in which He has led us. We can tell how we have tested His promise, and found the promise true. We can bear witness to what we have known of the grace of Christ.

This is the witness for which our Lord calls, and for want of which the world is perishing.

Only a temporary rebuff

Though the people of Gergesa had not received Jesus, He did not leave them to the darkness they had chosen. When they bade Him depart from them, they had not heard His words. They were ignorant of that which they were rejecting. Therefore He again sent the light to them, and by those to whom they would not refuse to listen.

A disaster turned to glory

In causing the destruction of the swine, it was Satan's purpose to turn the people away from the Saviour, and prevent the preaching of the gospel in that region. But this very occurrence roused the whole country as nothing else could have done, and directed attention to Christ.

Though the Saviour Himself departed, the men whom He had healed remained as witnesses to His power. Those who had been mediums of the prince of darkness became channels of light, messengers of the Son of God. Men marvelled as they listened to the wondrous news. A door was opened to the gospel throughout that region.

When Jesus returned to Decapolis, the people flocked about Him, and for three days, not merely the inhabitants of one town, but thousands from all the surrounding region, heard the message of salvation. Thus, even the power of demons is under the control of our Saviour, and the working of evil is overruled for good.

The encounter with the demoniacs of Gergesa had a lesson for the disciples. It showed the depths of degradation to which Satan is seeking to drag the whole human race, and the mission of Christ to set men free from his power.

Satan’s kingdom

Those wretched beings, dwelling in the place of graves, possessed by demons, in bondage to uncontrolled passions and loathsome lusts, represent what humanity would become if given up completely to satanic control.

Satan's influence is constantly exerted upon men and women to distract their senses, control their minds for evil, and incite to violence and crime. He weakens the body, darkens the intellect, and debases the soul. Whenever humans reject the Saviour's invitation, they are yielding themselves to Satan.

Multitudes in every department in life, in the home, in business, and even in the church, are doing this today. It is because of this that violence and crime have overspread the earth, and moral darkness, like the pall of death, enshrouds the habitations of men.

Through his hollow temptations Satan leads men to worse and worse evils, till utter depravity and ruin are the result. The only safeguard against his power is found in the presence of Jesus.

Christ’s kingdom

Before men and angels Satan has been revealed as man's enemy and destroyer; Christ, as man's friend and deliverer. His Spirit will develop in humanity all that will ennoble the character and dignify the nature. It will build men and women up for the glory of God in body and soul and spirit.

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7.

He has called us "to the obtaining of the glory" (the character) "of our Lord Jesus Christ;" 2 Thessalonians 2:14; He has called us to be "conformed to the image [or likeness], of His Son." Romans 8:29.

And souls that have been degraded into instruments of Satan are still through the power of Christ being transformed into messengers of righteousness, and sent forth by the Son of God to tell what "great things the Lord has done for you, and has had compassion on you."

The call to heal

Returning from Gergesa to the western shore, Jesus found a multitude gathered to receive Him, and they greeted Him with joy. He remained by the seaside for a time, teaching and healing, and then went to the house of Levi-Matthew to meet the publicans at the feast.

Here Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, found Him.

This elder of the Jews came to Jesus in great distress, and cast himself at His feet, exclaiming, "My little daughter lies at the point of death:
I pray You, come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
"

Jesus set out at once with the ruler for his home. Though the disciples had seen so many of His works of mercy, they were surprised at His compliance with the entreaty of the haughty rabbi; yet they accompanied their Master, and the people followed, eager and expectant.

A slow journey

The ruler's house was not far distant, but Jesus and His companions advanced slowly, for the crowd pressed Him on every side.

The anxious father was impatient of delay; but Jesus, pitying the people, stopped now and then to relieve some suffering one, or to comfort a troubled heart.

While they were still on the way, a messenger pressed through the crowd, bearing to Jairus the news that his daughter was dead, and it was useless to trouble the Master further. The word caught the ear of Jesus. "Fear not," He said; "believe only, and she shall be made whole."

The ‘rest’ in faith

Jairus pressed closer to the Saviour, and together they hurried to the ruler's home. Already the hired mourners and flute players were there, filling the air with their clamour.

The presence of the crowd, and the tumult jarred upon the spirit of Jesus. He tried to silence them, saying, "Why make you this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleeps." They were indignant at the words of the Stranger. They had seen the child in the embrace of death, and they laughed Him to scorn.

Requiring them all to leave the house, Jesus took with Him the father and mother of the young girl, and the three disciples, Peter, James, and John, and together they entered the chamber of death.

The call to resurrection

Jesus approached the bedside, and, taking the child's hand in His own, He pronounced softly, in the familiar language of her home, the words, "Damsel, I say to you, arise."

Instantly a tremor passed through the unconscious form. The pulses of life beat again. The lips unclosed with a smile. The eyes opened widely as if from sleep, and the girl gazed with wonder on the group beside her. She arose, and her parents clasped her in their arms, and wept for joy.

A desperate need

On the way to the ruler's house, Jesus had met, in the crowd, a poor woman who for twelve years had suffered from a disease that made her life a burden. She had spent all her means upon doctors and remedies, only to be pronounced incurable. But her hopes revived when she heard of the cures that Christ performed.

She felt assured that if she could only go to Him she would be healed. In weakness and suffering she came to the seaside where He was teaching, and tried to press through the crowd, but in vain.

Again she followed Him from the house of Levi-Matthew, but was still unable to reach Him. She had begun to despair, when, in making His way through the multitude, He purposefully came near where she was.

The ‘touch’ of faith

The golden opportunity had come. She was in the presence of the Great Physician! But amid the confusion she could not speak to Him, nor catch more than a passing glimpse of His figure. Fearful of losing her one chance of relief, she pressed forward, saying to herself, "If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole." As He was passing, she reached forward, and succeeded in barely touching the border of His garment.

But in that moment she knew that she was healed. In that one touch was concentrated the faith of her life, and instantly her pain and feebleness gave place to the vigour of perfect health.

Recognition is required

With a grateful heart she then tried to withdraw from the crowd; but suddenly Jesus stopped, and the people halted with Him. He turned, and looking about asked in a voice distinctly heard above the confusion of the multitude, "Who touched Me?" The people answered this query with a look of amazement. Jostled upon all sides, and rudely pressed here and there, as He was, it seemed a strange inquiry.

Peter, ever ready to speak, said, "Master, the multitude throng You and press You, and say You, Who touched Me?" Jesus answered, "Somebody has touched Me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me."

The Saviour could distinguish the touch of faith from the casual contact of the careless throng. Such trust should not be passed without comment. He would speak to the humble woman words of comfort that would be to her a wellspring of joy, - words that would be a blessing to His followers to the close of time.

Looking toward the woman, Jesus insisted on knowing who had touched Him. Finding concealment vain, she came forward tremblingly, and cast herself at His feet. With grateful tears she told the story of her suffering, and how she had found relief. Jesus gently said, "Daughter, be of good comfort: your faith has made you whole; go in peace."

He gave no opportunity for superstition to claim healing virtue for the mere act of touching His garments. It was not through the outward contact with Him, but through the faith which took hold on His divine power, that the cure was wrought.

Not all accept healing

The wondering crowd that pressed close about Christ realised no accession of vital power. But when the suffering woman put forth her hand to touch Him, believing that she would be made whole, she felt the healing virtue.

So in spiritual things.

To talk of religion in a casual way, to pray without soul hunger and living faith, avails nothing. A nominal faith in Christ, which accepts Him merely as the Saviour of the world, can never bring healing to the individual.

The true faiths

The faith that is required to obtain salvation is not a mere intellectual assent to the truth. Therefore, he or she who waits for entire knowledge before they will exercise faith, cannot receive blessings from God.

It is not enough to believe about Christ;

we must believe in Him, in His character.

The only faith that will benefit us is that which embraces Him as a personal Saviour; which appropriates His merits to ourselves to overcome sin.

Many hold faith as an opinion. This is not so.

Saving faith is a transaction, an exchange, by which those who receive Christ join themselves in covenant relation with God similar to marriage on earth. Genuine faith produces a new life as part of a partnership.

A living faith means an increase of vigour in the continued life, a confiding trust in a heavenly "Husband", by which the saved one becomes a conquering power.

Gifts should be confessed

After healing the woman, Jesus desired her to acknowledge the blessing she had received. The gifts which the gospel offers are not to be secured by stealth or enjoyed in secret. So the Lord calls upon us for confession of His goodness. "You are My witnesses, says the Lord, that I am God." Isaiah 43:12.

Our confession of His faithfulness is Heaven's chosen agency for revealing Christ to the world. We are to acknowledge His grace as made known through the holy men of old; but that which will be most effective is the testimony of our own experience.

We are witnesses for God as we reveal in ourselves the working of a power that is divine.

Every individual has a life distinct from all others, and an experience differing essentially from theirs. God desires that our praise shall ascend to Him, marked by our own individuality, not because He wants praise, but because that way others will hear and desire salvation.

These precious acknowledgments to the praise of the glory of His grace, when supported by a Christ-like life, have an irresistible power that works for the salvation of souls.

Only one!

When the ten lepers came to Jesus for healing, He bade them go and show themselves to the priest before they were healed. Luke 17:11-19. On the way they were cleansed, but only one of them returned to give Him glory. The others went their way, forgetting Him who had made them whole.

How many are still doing the same thing!

The Lord works continually to benefit mankind. He is ever imparting His bounties.

He raises up the sick from beds of languishing, He delivers men and women from peril which they do not see, He commissions heavenly angels to save them from calamity, to guard them from "the pestilence that walks in darkness" and "the destruction that wastes at noonday" (Psalm 91:6); but their hearts are unimpressed because they cannot see Him.

He has given all the riches of heaven to redeem them, and yet they are unmindful of His great love. By their ingratitude they close their hearts against the grace of God. Like the plants in the desert they know not where the good comes from, and their souls inhabit the parched places of the wilderness.

For our good

It is for our own benefit to keep every gift of God fresh in our memory. Thus faith is strengthened to claim and to receive more and more.

There is greater encouragement for us in the least blessing we ourselves receive from God than in all the accounts we can read of the faith and experience of others.

Those who respond to the grace of God are like a watered garden. Their health shall spring forth speedily; their light shall rise in obscurity, and the glory of the Lord shall be seen upon them. Isaiah 58:8. Let us then remember the loving-kindness of the Lord, and the multitude of His tender mercies.

Like the people of Israel, let us set up our stones of witness, and inscribe upon them the precious story of what God has done for us. See Genesis 35:14-15. And as we review His dealings with us in our pilgrimage, let us, out of hearts melted with gratitude, declare,

"What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people.
" Psalm 116:12-14.

"The word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.

" For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, Whoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed."

Romans 10:8-11.

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